Dark Awake - _Soil, Blood... and the Reaping of Light_
(Great Turf Deluxe, 2013)
by: Chaim Drishner (7.5 out of 10)
Greek oddity Dark Awake, led by the enigmatic Shelmerdine, performs an assorted and fascinating neoclassical music, introducing martial industrial and neo-folk elements, as well as some eerie and abstract dark ambient stand-alone tracks, resulting in a cohesive recording where everything makes sense eventually, even though at first glimpse it all may sound like a disjointed, mixed bag of influences and aural aesthetics that do not stick together.

The music can be quite bombastic at times, while elsewhere it can be very quiet and minimal, but always insidious and unsettling. The album introduces some fascinating choral performances by a female vocalist by the (pseudo) name of Sekte; her vocal tone reminds that of Jarboe's deep lamentations in her Swans period, while on another track her voice transfigures into a child-like sweet and infantile singing. But most of the time she offers a howling, high-pitched, haunting performance of a tortured opera singer without voicing any words to couple her grief with, only forsaken unintelligible shrills.

The neofolk-oriented moments display some major Death in June influences, that is to say basic tunes with a strong rhythm section and an acoustic guitar; on other tracks the music shifts into being militaristic, almost fascistic, presided by martial drumming and bombastic synthesizers.

Each track on _Soil, Blood... and the Reaping of Light_ gets its own singular arrangement, whether it is the neoclassical sections or the cinematic surreal display on some other songs; these soundscapes have all been taken care of meticulously and in great dedication to this aural art, taken to the maximum by whichever modest means were at the disposal of the musician behind this project.

As aforementioned, the musical compositions and the song progressions are rather simple and naive; it's either a short ballad, a simple dark ambient layered soundscape, a decent yet basic piano piece or sampled marches and sounds of modern machinery and weaponry -- the sum of all those parts culminates in an addictive, mystery-laden experience.

In addition, those sampled religious choirs and the musical ornamentation Shelmerdine wraps them with, are beautifully and exquisitely intimidating; darkly erotic yet heralding the end of the world; like making love in a hurry and for the last time, before the bombs begin to rain down.

Dark Awake's lyrical themes and outlook, both thematic and visual, are also a variety of subjects, from nationalism and war, through Biblical demonology, to artistic decadence such as the homage track to Pasolini's "120 Days of Sodom" motion picture, but instead of offering a non-cohesive, fragmented work, Dark Awake's music, as a whole makes sense eventually; each track is perfect in the projection of whatever sentiments the musician aimed at resurrecting, in its own, awkward, unripe yet fascinating kind of way and the whole lot is a dark, dark ride through esoterica, the end of days and the downfall of man.

This being Dark Awake's third full-length album release, you are well advised to give this great sonic anomaly a listen or a few, and also make sure to check out the previous releases by this very promising, talented and enigmatic Greek band.

_Soil, Blood... and the Reaping of Light_ is among the most interesting recordings you probably will hear from recent times, and most likely also the most eclectic. But you would appreciate the album's eclecticism, because this very uneven, motley attitude is the only method possible for a multifaceted musician such as Shelmerdine to display the whole of his talent, namely the ability to excel through all those aesthetic variants of counter-culture music: vitriolic neoclassical, cold martial industrial, truly dark ambient, Stygian choral music and melancholic and primitive neo-folk, so in the end this album is more of a compilation of the artist's abilities, than anything else, and those are abundant.

So if you're into musical groups such as Death in June, Current 93, Elend, Hekate, Arditi, Swans, Gnaw Their Tongues, In Slaughter Natives, Arcana, or dig any form of well crafted cinematic brooding soundtracks and those distinctive haunting musical pieces that correspond with old, gothic horror movies, this album is so very much for you!

Contact: http://darkawake.bandcamp.com/

(article published 10/3/2014)

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